A noncommercial broadcaster in the Washington, D.C., area whose spectrum was sold in last year’s FCC auction will go off the air and reduce its cable offerings in the market as of March 31.
MHz Networks broadcasts from D.C.’s Virginia suburbs on WNVC and WNVT, formerly owned by Commonwealth Public Broadcasting Corp. in Richmond. Commonwealth sold the spectrum for the stations last year for a total of $182 million.
MHz, a nonprofit independent of Commonwealth, airs a mix of local and international multicultural fare on the stations. Additional digital channels are devoted to international news networks such as Deutsche Welle, Africa Today and Turkey’s TRT World.
The broadcaster “looked at acquiring another license and to other providers for channel carriage,” said MHz Networks President Frederick Thomas in a press release Saturday. “The former ended in too many moving pieces and the latter proved difficult for the cable systems without a must-carry broadcast partner.”
MHz would also need a new facility because Commonwealth owns its studios, Thomas told Current.
The network will continue to provide MHz Worldview, a channel of international shows, on cable in the D.C. market and to 22 public TV stations across the country. This week it will resume broadcasts in Chicago, where the sale of another station in last year’s FCC auction — WYCC, operated by the City Colleges of Chicago — bumped Worldview off the air. WTTW will begin airing Worldview Friday, according to Thomas.
MHz will move distribution of Worldview to other stations through the centralcast facility at WJCT in Jacksonville, Fla.
The network is also working to promote a subscription streaming service, MHz Choice, which offers international comedies, dramas and mysteries on digital platforms including Roku and iTunes. “I would encourage my comrades out there in public TV world to embrace the idea of getting involved in digital streaming,” Thomas said. “It’s really where they need to be moving.”
Meanwhile, MHz’s signoff brings to an end the Washington market’s sole outlet for RT, the Kremlin-backed Russian news channel that has been criticized as propaganda. In a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last year, members of Congress asked whether sponsorship identification and public file ownership disclosure requirements should be applied to RT.
The channel was among the international feeds MHz offered on broadcast and cable and “really had an audience,” Thomas said. MHz Worldview does not include RT programming.